When a person approaches me for support, I send them an informed consent form, along with a self care plan. The following is my plan for grief and bereavement:
Things to Remember when grieving:
Numbness, shock, and disbelief are natural feelings that are psychologically protective until you are
able to experience grief fully.
Grief may also be experienced as physical symptoms. There is no right or wrong way to express
your grief through mourning (wearing black, etc.), do what feels right for you.
Loss often triggers previous grieved losses and the feelings and emotions resurface from the past.
Grieving is a journey; a process that requires understanding and self-reflection in order to work through it. During this process, you may feel disconnected from others at times (and that is to be expected, to some extent).
There are no more powerful feelings than those that arise from grief. It has been described as an “earthquake”. “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid.” C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed.
“We are healed of a suffering only by experiencing it in the full.” (Marcel Proust) However, feeling your pain all at once would be overwhelming & it’s okay to “… feel it in small waves then allow it to retreat until you are ready for the next wave.” (Alan Wolfelt, Touchstone #1)
When someone close to you dies, the memories of the death may replay over in your head; it seems so unbelievable that it’s hard to understand and absorb. Repeatedly telling the story is necessary to bring your mind and heart together.
There is no such thing as “closure” and you do not need to “get over” your grief and “move on”. We learn to integrate the loss into our own life journey and go on living.
TOP THREE THINGS TO REMEMBER FOR SELF CARE:
- Be kind to yourself. (Take the time to cry, sleep, nourish your body, talk & reminisce.)
- Ask for help/support when you need it. (Lower your expectations, you don’t need to do everything at 100% capacity, get done what you are able to do – prioritize & get support.)
- Trust yourself to heal and grow at your own pace. (Consider visiting your doctor or healthcare provider if you are having difficulty with nutrition, sleeping, or are feeling overwhelmed/hopeless over many days into weeks and months.)
If you find yourself constantly flashing back to the way your loved one died, redirect your racing thoughts and ground yourself in the present moment:
- What three things do you see in your current environment (lamp, tree, etc.)?
- What three things do you physically feel (your feet on the floor, bottom on chair, etc.)?
- What do you taste (coffee, tea, toothpaste)?
- What do you smell (coffee, office supplies, fresh air)?
- What do you hear (cars outside, birds chirping, TV or other electronics, etc.)?
Your brain believes your body is physically experiencing your thoughts in that moment and associated feelings and emotions surface. Redirect your thoughts/brain back to the present moment.
Reminder … Thoughts Are Not Facts
GROUNDING & CALMING YOUR NERVOUS SYSTEM
Taking deep breaths helps to ease physical sensations created by anxiety and intense feelings. It is a strategy to feel more empowered, and less scattered or out of control feeling.
Focus on the Breath … Slowly inhale through your nose (if it helps, say in your mind “inhale”), hold your breath for a count of 2 seconds, then slowly exhale through your mouth (say in your mind “exhale”).
Distress Centre Durham 905-430-2522 www.distresscentredurham.com
Durham Mental Health Services 905-666-0483 Crisis www.dmhs.ca
Information Durham (Research this database for resources)
Formerly Information Durham NOW: durham.211central.ca
Telehealth Ontario 1-866-797-0000 www.ontario.ca/page/mental-health
Bereavement Ontario Network 519-290-0219 www.bereavementontarionetwork.ca
Canadian Virtual Hospice provides “Provides information & support on advanced illness, palliative care, and grief.” virutalhospice.ca
TAKE NOTE of people and places that you consider part of your support network.
EXPRESS YOUR FEELINGS THROUGH THE ACTION OF A PERSONAL RITUAL/CEREMONY
Acknowledge the Continuing Bond to your loved one by trying one or some of these ideas:
- Have a physical space (a table setting or space on a shelf) in memory of your loved one during the holidays, or year-round.
- Feel a connection to your loved one by doing an activity they enjoyed.
- Continue to connect with the person who has died, talk to them or write down your thoughts.
- Light a candle or burn incense in honour of your loved one.
- Make a donation, gift, or dedicate time to a charity in your loved one’s name. Although they are not physically here to carry out this work, you may do this in their name and in their honour.
- Create a memory scrapbook and fill it with pictures, letters, postcards and other significant memorabilia.
- Carry or wear something special that reminds you of your loved one.
- Read or say aloud an inspirational verse, poem, or prayer.
- Be in nature, symbolically place stones in a stream or lake or create a stone statue.
Of Note: Be sure to have a beginning and an end to the ritual to allow yourself to transition back into a different frame of mind (of your day-to-day activities perhaps). Do what feels comfortable.